Best Emergency Radios in 2017 (Review)
If you’re lucky you’ll never need to use an emergency radio. But if recent events surrounding hurricane Harvey in Texas showed us anything it’s that you can never be too prepared, especially if you live in an area prone to extreme weather events. And although technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years the fact is that if Mother Nature’s wrath is bearing down on you it’s not wise to depend solely on smartphone apps to save your bacon. What you need is the type of crucial information and practical assistance you get from the emergency radio.
With an emergency radio you’ll get the kind of weather updates and emergency information that are invaluable when you’re trying to determine if you need to batten down the hatches or evacuate. But finding a dependable, high-quality emergency radio with plenty of useful features can be a daunting task if you have no experience with such things, which is why we’ve done the research for you. Below are our choices for best emergency radio currently on the market. Let’s get started.
Best Emergency Radio (Our Top Picks):
Kaito KA500 Wind Up Emergency
The Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio has a reputation for reliability and wide ranging functionality that has helped innumerable people prepare for, endure and emerge unscathed from natural disasters of every kind. When it comes to charging methods few emergency radios can match the KA500. It can be charged via hand cranking, solar panel, USB input, wall charging or batteries. So no matter where you are or what the conditions you’ll have the power and information you need. The cherry on the cake is that you can also use this emergency radio to charge your mobile devices.
- The KA500 is compact and lightweight.
- Charge the built-in NiMH battery via outlet, USB input, solar panel or hand cranking. Or use AA batteries.
- The full 7 NOAA bands are available to you with the KA500.
- It’s also a powerful LED flashlight so you’re never left in the dark during an emergency.
- The solar panel is not as efficient as it could be.
- The emergency radio manual leaves something to be desired.
The KA500 emergency radio provides exactly the type of versatility you need when things become unpredictable. With its 6 different charge/power modes and 7 different NOAA channels you’re never without power or access to the kind of vital information you need. The KA500 also has AM, FM and 2-band shortwave capability and access to the Public Emergency Alert System (PEAS) for 24 hour 7 day a week real time forecasts. Tuning the KA500 emergency radio is easy and effective. It seeks out signals with determination and presents them clearly and crisply so you’re not trying to decipher static signals that seem like they’re coming from another solar system. It’s light, it’s built to last and it does exactly what you want an emergency radio to do. It’s essential survival gear that won’t let you down.
American Red Cross FRX3
Anything that comes with the American Red Cross name on it is going to have to live up to some lofty expectations and thanks to Eton the FRX3 Weather Alert Radio does. This is an incredibly versatile, durable and practical survival radio that will keep you informed, keep your smartphone up and running, guide you through the darkness with its LED flashlight and never get lost due to the glow-in-the-dark locator. Add multiple charging/powering methods, a red emergency beacon and a headphone jack so you can hear what you need to hear and the FRX3 emergency radio belongs in your cabinet.
- Includes powerful LED flashlight.
- Capable of receiving all 7 NOAA weather bands.
- Use it to keep your smartphone charged so you never lose contact with loved ones.
- Hand cranking, solar panels, USB charging or battery power options.
- Glow in the dark locator so you’ll never lose track of it.
- You have to crank quite a bit to get a useable charge but it can be done.
When a natural disaster is closing in around you information is vital. The FRX3 emergency radio from Eton is one of the best emergency radios out there. Tough, practical, easy to carry with an LED flashlight and emergency beacon the FRX3 will help you find your way to safety. The glow in the dark feature should be mandatory on all emergency gear and it’s a welcome addition here. The FRX3 emergency radio is easy to carry, hard to lose and never needs to be plugged in (although you can if you have the opportunity). Activate the “alert” function and you’ll receive emergency weather alerts and updates for your area as soon as they’re issued. Reception on all bands is typically excellent and the smartphone charger is vital to keeping you in touch if at all possible with the people who mean the most to you. The pedigree of this emergency radio plus the low cost and thoughtful engineering make it a tough, foundational piece of survival gear.
RunningSnail MD-088s Solar
The RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency Radio is compact and versatile, tough, easy to use and has one of the brightest LED flashlights of any comparable weather radio. You get 3 convenient and foolproof ways of recharging the unit – hand crank, solar and USB – along with the ability to charge your mobile devices from it so you’re never out of touch with your loved ones. You also have the ability to run the device off of 3 AAA batteries if you have some handy. With all 7 NOAA channels accessible along with both the AM and FM bands you’ll have all the info you need to make informed decisions.
- LED flashlight makes sure you’re not lost in the dark.
- Charge your mobile devices from the RunningSnail emergency radio and stay in contact.
- Emergency flasher to help rescuers locate you if need be.
- NOAA weather alerts allow you to make the right choice for your family.
- 45 day money back guarantee.
- No clock on this emergency radio.
- Analog display may not be precise enough for some.
Whereas some emergency radios are big, bulky affairs the newly upgraded version of the RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency Weather Radio is blissfully light and compact. But it’s so much more than that. It’s also an invaluable power pack to have during an emergency so you can keep your other mobile devices charged (no adapter needed) and stay in touch with those who matter most. For about the price of a large pizza or a T-shirt you can have this potentially lifesaving emergency radio that will last for years and be the thing everyone rallies around when crisis strikes. Its light weight and compact construction also make it the perfect survival radio for taking into the woods on your next hiking or camping or hunting sojourn along with a first class field watch, survival knife and other key gear. You don’t have to be a survivalist to value survival and when it comes to surviving Mother Nature’s fury the MD-088s Emergency Radio is one piece of gear you definitely want in your corner.
RunningSnail MD-090 Solar Crank NOAA
The second of our RunningSnail entries is their MD-090 Solar Crank NOAA Emergency Radio. Like the MD-088s this one is built to take whatever Mother Nature can dish out and keep working so you can stay up to date on all the information pertinent to your situation and ultimate survival. It never pays to be unprepared for a natural disaster and with the MD-090 emergency radio you won’t be. It feeds off of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can be topped up by hand crank, solar panel or USB cable. And if you have some AAA batteries handy it will work with them as well. You’re never out of touch or in the dark with the MD-090 emergency radio.
- Survival radio capable of receiving all 7 NOAA weather channels.
- Zoomable LED flashlight keeps the dark at bay.
- LED “table lamp” can be reassuring for the kids when the power goes out.
- The MD-090 along with your mobile devices with never go dead.
- Waterproofed to IPX3 meaning it won’t shy away from rain or snow.
- Solar panel requires lots of direct sunlight. Unlikely during a weather emergency.
- Reliable and tough though it looks a bit cheap.
The MD-090 emergency radio is a bit of an enigma because it looks like a cheap throwback transistor radio but it performs like a tough, high tech 21st century piece of hybrid tech, which is exactly what it is. Looks aside though the MD-090 emergency radio stands up to the weather if you’re caught outside and provides you the tools you need to navigate your way to the emergency shelter, higher ground or wherever you’re headed. Because it’s LED, the flashlight is much stronger than its 1 watt designation would indicate; producing the effective lumens of a much larger conventional flashlight. And that light is clearer and more focused as well. The hand crank doesn’t feel fragile like it does on some other emergency radios and the radio itself does an effective job sniffing out signals even when the weather has gone downhill. No home survival kit should be without this type of emergency radio.
Sangean MMR-88 Weather+Alert
The Sangean MMR-88 has earned its reputation as a solid, reliable emergency radio. It’s extremely compact, extremely durable and has an easy to read digital display which also monitors your charge level. The hand crank is smooth and efficient and the design is logical with everything easy to understand. This emergency radio is very stable when set it down so you don’t have to worry about it blowing away. And it has a built in jack for your headphones so important information doesn’t get drowned out by wind or other people’s conversations in the emergency shelter.
- Handy charge indicator is front and center on the digital display.
- 3 methods for recharging; crank, solar or USB.
- DC Out port for recharging your mobile devices.
- 4 function LED flashlight (low, high, flash and SOS).
- AM/FM and 7 NOAA channels.
- No alkaline battery backup for this emergency radio.
- Included L-i battery is of dubious quality but can be swapped out for a better one.
The Sangean MMR-88 is one of the handsomest emergency radios on the market. That wouldn’t mean much if was all the device had going for it but the MMR-88 is way more than just another pretty face. It weighs in at less than 1 pound so taking it with you if you have to evacuate isn’t going to be a problem. There’s a headphone jack so you can hear vital information even if the wind is howling. The multiple recharge methods mean the MMR-88 emergency radio will always be up and running (as will your mobile devices) and the heavy duty rubberized caps mean that even if you drop it the MMR-88 won’t quit on you. If there’s a drawback to the Sangean MMR-88 emergency radio it’s the lack of ability to power it using standard alkaline batteries. But they had to save space somewhere and the fact that you can hand crank it at any time means alkaline backup is really just a luxury anyway. At the end of the day you’d be well prepared if you had the MMR-88 in your emergency kit.
Kaito Voyager KA500IP-Red
The KA500IP emergency radio from Kaito is that company’s second entry on our list and a cousin of the KA500 reviewed above. Like its relative the KA500IP Red emergency radio is engineered to provide you a tough, reliable source of information in the event of natural disaster and it does its job well. There are multiple ways to keep the Ni-MH battery charged including hand crank and solar panel. Or, if you prefer, the unit will accept 3 AA batteries as a power source. It will pick up as many as 7 NOAA weather alert stations as well as standard AM/FM channels and the whole thing is wrapped in a tough, no-nonsense shell with a handy, adjustable nylon carrying strap.
- 7 preset NOAA weather channels.
- 3 methods for charging along with 2 battery options means it will never go dead on you.
- Solar panel swivels a full 180 degrees to catch maximum light.
- Reading lamp keeps you in the light when the power goes out.
- Analog display is backlit for easy reading day or night.
- Like the standard KA500 survival radio the solar panel here is fairly ineffective.
The ability of the KA500IP emergency radio to receive shortwave signals is a major plus for a survival radio. When coupled with the myriad charging options, the compact size and easy transport with the convenient nylon strap this emergency radio starts off on the right foot and keeps going. The hand crank is generally smooth and trouble free and the telescoping antenna reaches up high to snag signals and collapses down small for storage. The panel on this solar powered radio can be swiveled any which way to catch the sun and once powered up the replaceable Ni-MH battery can be used to recharge your mobile devices. The LED flashlight and table lamp are there to make sure you’re never stranded in the dark; which is important when it comes to keeping everyone calm. All in all the KA500IP Red emergency radio is well worth the relatively small money you’ll invest in it. Next time Mother Nature bears down on you you’ll be glad you have it at the ready.
Midland Consumer ER310
The design of the Midland ER310 emergency radio leaves no doubt about the fact that it’s a piece of survival gear, which is actually kind of refreshing. The unit is designed to facilitate easy transport, easy access to important information and interoperability with other devices. The molded handle on this emergency radio allows for a nice firm grip and the backlit LCD panel allows for precise tuning and a quick status checkup on the battery. All the buttons are logically displayed and easy to read, the 130 lumens LED flashlight can be a lifesaver and the L-i battery will provide more than 30 hours of use once fully charged.
- Audible siren signal when weather alerts are received.
- At 130 lumens the LED flashlight is among the brightest on any emergency radio.
- Replaceable Lithium-ion battery does a great job holding a charge.
- SOS beacon and ultrasonic dog whistle will bring whatever type of rescue team is out there.
- Recharge via hand crank, solar panel or USB.
- Not the world’s most efficient hand crank, though it will work.
Reception on this ultra-compact emergency radio is good to excellent, though like most emergency radios it’s only going to pick up the closest 1 or 2 NOAA weather alert stations. Sound quality emanating from the speaker is better than we expected for such a small device and volume-wise clocks in at nearly 90 decibels. Like other high quality emergency radios once the Lithium-ion battery is charged you can use it to recharge your mobile devices via the USB port and cable. The look of this emergency radio is all business. No retro pretense or superfluous touches meant to impress. It’s tough, tight and ready to help. The ER310 emergency radio is water resistant but not waterproof so don’t expose it directly to the driving rain. Other than that it’s all good. An exceptional value.
ESky ES-CR02 With LED Flashlight
We wrap up the review section of this guide with the eSky ES-CR02 Emergency Radio. The ES-CR02 is another compact wonder that’s built to provide you the ways and means to transcend natural disasters and it does so without fail or flair. It’s a basic emergency radio that can be recharged in the standard hand crank/solar panel manner and in this case the hand cranking is pretty efficient; garnering you about 20 minutes of power for each minute of cranking. There’s also a 50 lumen LED flashlight and the ability to recharge your smartphone or other mobile devices.
- Fast efficient hand cranking gets the job done in a hurry.
- 50 lumens flashlight cuts through the dark so you can get to safety.
- 7 NOAA weather channels along with AM/FM stations.
- Waterproof construction lets you take it out in bad weather if need be.
- Telescoping antenna reaches out to grab signals.
- The small, analog display can be hard to read.
- Would be nice if there were a handle on this emergency radio.
The eSky ES-CR02 multi-function emergency radio provides you with dependable emergency information via its AM/FM, NOAA weather radio capability. If you need to evacuate grab your bug out bag and keep the ES-CR02 tuned to “alert” mode to receive critical updates. Find your way through the gathering gloom with the 50 lumen LED flashlight and when you reach a place where you can rest recharge the unit by hand cranking it. Once the Ni-MH battery is recharged use it to recharge all your mobile devices as well. Between the practical information and utility provided by this emergency radio and your mobile phone’s GPS capability you’ll reach your destination safe and sound. The eSky ES-CR02 emergency weather radio is one of the best crank radios around. Having one of these as part of your survival gear will help ensure both you and your loved ones come out the other side of calamity unscathed.
Emergency Radio Buying Guide
What is a Crank Radio? – Like most hand powered generators the hand crank on a survival radio produces power by way of a magnet wrapped in a coil of conductive wire. When the coil is spun or “cranked” around the magnet an electric current is generated. Simply put, this electricity is then used to recharge the battery in the emergency weather radio. This is essentially the same way power is produced in a hydroelectric dam, with a few differences in application and on a much, much larger scale. If you’ve ever driven past a modern windmill farm you’ve also seen this method of electricity generation in action.
Where Can I Buy an Emergency Radio? – Emergency radios are widely available in electronic stores, big box stores, home improvement centers, many hardware stores and of course from a plethora of online retailers including eBay and Amazon. The advantage of buying a solar powered radio in a brick and mortar shop is that you can hold it in your hand, feel the weight, determine what kind of grip you can get on it, whether you can put it in the pocket of your pants and see how bright any lights may be. The advantage to buying online is that you don’t have to leave your home and you may get a better price.
When Will I Need an Emergency Radio? – The weather radio is typically used whenever Mother Nature decides to unleash her fury in the form of high wind, high precipitation events such as hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and seasonal flooding; such as that experienced nearly every year in the American Midwest. The emergency survival radio is an invaluable asset that allows a person to key in on important weather updates, evacuation orders, emergency decrees and more. With it you have a dependable tool to aid in your survival. Without it you are essentially on your own against the power of nature.
Why can’t I Just Use My Smartphone? – During a natural disaster the normal workings of society are disrupted. That means clean water is often hard to find, supplies of heating oil can become scarce and most commonly of all, electric power is lost. Sometimes for days or even weeks. While most smartphones are amazing devices their battery is going to die, probably sooner rather than later. Then what do you do? Thankfully we have the emergency weather radio to keep us informed, guide us to safety, provide light to navigate the darkness and provide power to keep our mobile devices up and running. Perhaps the day will come when smartphones are self-charging. Until that day we have the emergency radio.
The best crank radios are important allies when it comes to transcending a natural disaster. They allow you to maintain contact with the outside world and plan either your survival or escape strategy based on accurate, timely information. Emergency radios often cost less than $50 and yet the information, power, light and yes, entertainment, they provide to people under the natural disaster gun is priceless.
We hope you found the above emergency radio reviews helpful in determining which is likely to be the best emergency radio for you and your loved ones. Remember to stop back on a regular basis for more product review guides from gearhungry.com.